Friday, July 11, 2008

I have tracked the story down

It was, indeed, Hazel Blears, as one comment on the previous story suggested, who came up with the fatuous suggestion of rewarding people for voting in local elections. I am not sure which American schemes of awarding donuts and chicken dinners to voters the article mentions, as I have not heard of any and the author gives no details, hoping to get away with airy anti-Americanism.

The truth is that the only way to ensure that people will vote in larger numbers in local elections is to make them meaningful. In other words, let local councils raise their own money and justify their spending to the electorate and, hey presto, people will turn out to vote. Of course, local sales tax is not a possibility while we are in the EU because we are stuck in the VAT system, which is set for us in Brussels.

But, naturally enough, nothing of that kind is being proposed:
The move is one of a series of measures outlined by Hazel Blears, the Communities Secretary, to boost local democracy and “empower” communities. Other proposals in the White Paper Communities in Control will make it easier to hold a referendum for a directly elected mayor and will force town halls to respond to petitions. Local neighbourhoods will also be given “community kitties” worth millions of pounds where improvements are needed to council sevices.
This is almost too stupid to comment on but I shall make a few points.

In the first place, giving local neighbourhoods "community kitties" - I take it we are not talking about cats who adopt several homes - is the very opposite of what should be done. The money will still be controlled by central government and handed out as it sees fit, probably to areas that are more likely to vote for the party in power. How is that going to encourage people to become involved in local government?

In the second place, whenever there were referendums for a directly elected mayor, outside London, they all failed because people do not want them. They probably take one look at the mess known as the GLA and say, "thank you, but no thank you". Why make it easier to have more of those referendums? Which part of no does Ms Blears not understand?

Thirdly, if referendums are now part of the British political system and we are to have them on matters like locally elected mayors, why, precisely cannot we have one on the Constitutional Reform Lisbon Treaty?

ADDENDUM: I seem to have missed the most outrageous of all proposals in the forthcoming White Paper:
Ms Blears will also announce the abolition of the “Widdecombe” rule, which forbids council staff from standing as councillors if they earn over £33,000. Under the latest regulations all but the most senior town hall officials will be able to stand for election as councillors and continue in their job if they are elected.
Oh my, this really will bring people out to vote.

1 comment:

John Page said...

Oh my, this really will bring people out to vote.

Well, I'd turn out and vote against anyone like this.

But then they'd probably make sure they stood in a safe ward.